Bad Reputation (1981; Blackheart, 1998)
I Love Rock 'n' Roll (1981; Blackheart, 1998)
Album (1983; Blackheart, 1998)
Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth (1984; Blackheart, 1998)
Good Music (Blackheart/CBS, 1986)
Up Your Alley (Blackheart/CBS, 1988)
The Hit List (Blackheart/CBS, 1990)
Notorious (Blackheart/CBS, 1991)
Flashback (Blackheart, 1993, 1998)
Pure and Simple (Warner Bros., 1994)
Fit to Be Tied (Blackheart, 1997)
Fetish (Blackheart, 1999)
Sinner (Blackheart, 2006)
The original riot grrrl, Joan Jett burst onto the charts in the early Eighties with a punk-suffued glam-pop sound that would influence a generation of famle rockers. Liberated from the Runaways—the Seventies all-girl teen rock group masterminded by impresario Kim Fowley— she debuted with two albums that were lean rock machines, with a mix of inspired covers ("Crimson and Clover") and po-faced, jackhammer—simple originals like "I Love Rock 'n' Roll," a smash hit and Jett's signature song.
Album finds Jett stretching her self-imposed boundaries a bit (see her cover of Sly & the Family Stone's "Everyday People"). She retrenches on Good Music; the title track is a backward-gazing Beach Boys tribute. A cover of "Fun, Fun, Fun" fares better, though the best tracks are originals this time: "This Means War," "Just Lust." Up Your Alley brings the chartwise song doctor Desmond Child into the picture, and Jett connects with several of the renowned Bon Jovi collaborator's meaty hooks—she turns a by-the-numbers heartbreak anthem ("I Hate Myself for Loving You") into a rocking therapy session. The Hit List is entirely composed of covers: newly recorded, if not exactly fresh. There are no surprises, and no letdowns; typical Joan Jett, in other words. Notorious—a competent but dull set—could use a few Hit List leftovers.
The Nineties saw several Jett reinventions. Even during waning popularity, Jett's Blackheart Records label made small pressings for hard-core devotees, and this dedication to her tougher-than-leather music and fanbase would later pay off. Grungy guitars replaced the usual power chords on Pure and Simple, which witnessed Jett teaming up with Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna and L7's Donita Sparks and Jennifer Finch. The grrrl-power movement undoubtedly led to a new generation of fans, with the release of retrospectives like Flashback, a collection of rarities. Fit to Be Tied is a stellar greatest-hits compilation – and a good place for new listeners to start.
Radical feminism informed the badass babe's next incarnation: Fetish found a buff-and-butch Jett demanding latex and rough sex on the title track. But the inclusion of bawdier bubblegum covers like "Wooly Bully" and "Hanky Panky" demonstrated that when it comes to raunchy rock-writing, veiled sexuality trumps overt sleaze any day. Sinner was a rocking collection of originals, many of which (see "Naked") sounded like classic Jett.
Portions of this album guide appeared in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (Fireside, 2004).
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